The dirty political data economy you don’t know about -- even though you are its primary target

Data is the new oil, except it isn’t the earth that is being excavated -- it’s you. Your data is being used as a commodity. It is being bought, sold, and potentially stolen with the direct aim of manipulating you – from the Weather Channel selling your geo-located data to a political advertising companies matching voter registration records to Facebook profiles, or political candidates tricking you into giving up your personal information through “surveys.”

In Missouri, for example, a statewide voter list can be purchased for $35. So for $35, anyone can get the full name, home address and birthday of every single registered voter in the state.

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What can then be done with this data? Facebook allows each individual that is fed into its advertising platform from this voter registration file to be matched to a Facebook profile. All of a sudden a company can directly target you on Facebook, knowing your name, home address, birthday and political affiliation. So the supposedly innocuous political ads you are seeing on Facebook are being targeted directly at you, personally.

We used to believe that Facebook advertising just went out to groups of people with set interests, but that is simply not the case. You are personally being targeted, and these companies know more about you than your own mother does.

The next time, you see a political ad, or receive a home mailing asking for your “valuable input” as a “top supporter” make sure you are clear on exactly what you are giving up -  your privacy.

Politicians are collecting data in the form of “surveys” all the time. For example, if you go to Donald Trump’s Facebook page, on its face, it looks pretty similar to anyone else’s, but if you scroll down on the left and click the button “Info and Ads,” it tells a very different story. We are able to see the advertisements that President Trump’s campaign is running and every single one of them directs you to a “survey” or “petition.”

What does it ask for? Your full name, email, ZIP code and phone number.  President Trump doesn’t care about you signing a petition, and he doesn’t need your “IMMEDIATE input” on the wall. Rather, his campaign has pioneered the most brilliant method of data collection we know. It isn’t asking you to donate – but you are doing so nonetheless, unknowingly giving up your data, a much more valuable resource.

Now, come the next election, you can be hand-fed advertising directly to your email, social media and your home. Not only can President Trump’s campaign send you this advertising, but so can the companies that he chooses to sell your data too. Trump is certainly not the only campaign doing this, but frankly, they are doing it by far the best.

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Taking a browse through the pages belonging to two 2020 Democratic contenders, both Julian Castro and Elizabeth Warren are up to the same game, linking their social media advertisements to surveys that record your information on specific topics, but, right now, no one really comes close to Trump.

So the next time, you see a political ad, or receive a home mailing asking for your “valuable input” as a “top supporter” make sure you are clear on exactly what you are giving up -  your privacy.

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